Even though airbags have cut down on the number of traumatic brain injuries in car accidents, serious brain damage remains alarmingly common in collisions. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention considers only falls to be a more frequent source of TBI in the U.S.
TBI is a catch-all term that describes many different brain injuries. While some minor TBIs may resolve on their own with little or no medical intervention, you should never ignore a possible cerebrospinal fluid leak.
What exactly is a cerebrospinal fluid leak?
Cerebrospinal fluid is an important part of your central nervous system. This fluid serves three critical functions:
- Delivering oxygen and nutrients to your brain and spinal cord
- Removing potentially toxic waste from your brain and spinal cord
- Providing functional support to your brain and spinal cord
Cerebrospinal fluid is clear and watery, so it can leak from your nose, ears or eyes after damage to its containment membranes. A blow to the head during a car accident is often sufficient to damage these delicate barriers.
What are the risks to your health?
If your supply of cerebrospinal fluid runs low, your brain may be vulnerable both to loss of oxygen and nutrients and also to poisoning. Additionally, depending on the source of the leak, you may be at risk of developing a potentially life-threatening brain infection.
You should go to the emergency room immediately if you have ear, eye or nose discharge in the hours, days or weeks after a car accident. Ultimately, the earlier you seek treatment, the greater your chances of recovering completely are likely to be.